Happy Earth Day, folks! To celebrate the day, I filled my shopping basket with some of the healthiest food on earth before heading off to talk about nutrition with the wonderful people at Blue Mountain Manor Retirement Residence. If you couldn’t join us, here are the foods we chatted about, why they are so healthy and how to enjoy them:
Kale (+ broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc)
Why: Brassica veggies prevent many forms of cancer and help to promote optimal liver function. Additionally, Kale is rich in vitamin K which prevents osteoporosis.
How: Kale is my top pick for green smoothies. I also love it in salads or a stir-fry.
Why: Loaded with antioxidants, they prevent cancer and strengthen the immune system.
How: On top of yogurt or hot cereal. In a smoothie. As a garnish on salads. As a snack.
Garlic and onions
Why: They prevent many forms of cancer. And they make everything taste yummy!
How: Onions and garlic form the base of almost any soup or sauce made in my kitchen.
Why: Way healthier than regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, which supports a healthy immune system.
How: Thinly sliced, they are delicious for dipping! Mashed with garlic and coconut oil, they make a healthier mashed potato side dish. Cut into cubes they lend a hearty texture to soup and stir-fry.
Why: Like blueberries, they are supercharged with antioxidants. Unlike blueberries, they are also rich in protein, fiber and iron to nourish you.
How: Bean salad. Stir-fry. Black bean dip. Beside my eggs instead of toast.
Why: A healthier way to treat a sweet tooth, they contain Magnesium and Calcium.
How: Add 2-3 to a green smoothie to mask any bitterness. Combined with nuts in a food processor to make a yummy sticky crusts for pies and tarts. Keep a few on hand for emergency snacking. Watch out for the large pits!
Why: Sea veggies are pretty much the only dietary source of Iodine, an important mineral required for normal thyroid function. Iodine deficiency is linked to fibrocystic breast disease and certain forms of cancer.
How: In this part of the world, sea vegetables can be found in dried form at most health food stores. Add a dried leaf or “frond” to cooking water when boiling beans or making soup to add minerals and flavor. Rehydrated and sliced, it adds an exotic touch to salads.
Almonds (+ walnuts, cashews and Brazil nuts)
Why: Nuts are full of healthy fats that do wonders for cholesterol metabolism to protect your cardiovascular system. They are also rich in fiber and protein.
How: They pack well for snacking. Or add them to cereal, yogurt, salads, baking, anywhere you want a boost of healthy fat and more protein.
Hemp hearts & Chia seeds
Why: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber, they support heart health and regulate digestion.
How: Add 1-2 Tbsp to cereals and smoothies to supercharge your energy. Sprinkle over salads.
Why: Very high in Calcium.
How: Sprinkle over salads. Use Tahini (sesame see paste) in salad dressings, smoothies, sauces and dips.
Why: This grain is very high in protein and it’s gluten-free.
How: Enjoy as a hot cereal instead of oatmeal or in place of rice or pasta at dinner. Combine with beans and fresh veggies for a cold salad.
Why: This stuff boosts liver health and it’s gluten-free.
How: As a side dish beside fish or chicken, or in a rice and lentil salad with fresh veggies.
Why: Supports a healthy cardiovascular system by modulating cholesterol levels.
How: Drizzle over raw or cooked veggies instead of melting butter or margarine. Use it as the base for salad dressings.
Why: Contains medium chain triglycerides, a type of fat that supports a healthy body weight, cholesterol levels and boosts memory.
How: Use it for any medium to high heat frying/cooking. Use it instead of butter or margarine when baking.
Tip: It must be unrefined (a.k.a. extra-virgin, cold-pressed). Refined coconut oil is very bad for your cholesterol levels and will cause elevated LDL.
Why: Regulates blood sugar levels.
How: Add a tsp to a Tbsp to smoothies and pasta sauces.
Why: This yellow spice is one of nature’s most potent anti-inflammatory substances. It is helpful for conditions like Crohn’s disease, arthritis and cardiovascular disease which are rooted in inflammation overload. Turmeric prevents and fights cancer by blocking the growth of new blood vessels that allow a tumor to grow and spread.
How: Enjoy curried veggies and meat dishes. Fine curry powders contain a lot of Turmeric and taste amazing when mixed with a little coconut oil and garlic.
Honey or Maple syrup
Why: These are far healthier sweeteners than cane sugar, agave, or anything containing aspartame or artificial sweeteners. Honey itself has immune stimulating properties.
How: Use sparingly anywhere you need a little extra sweetness in your life. But don’t over-do it. It’s still sugar.
Why: Anti-cancer. Anti-oxidant. Liver-loving. What’s not to love about Camellia sinensis?
How: Drink green tea. 3 cups per day.
Why: Lowers cholesterol. Highly anti-oxidant. Yummy.
How: Pure, organic, fair trade cacao powder is what I use for baking and sweet treats like chocolate smoothies and hot cacao.
Tip: A chocolate bar should have at least 75% Cacao to be considered “healthy” in my kitchen. Make your own hot cacao by combining it with almond milk and honey. Or make some chocolate avocado pudding.